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Campaign Fraud, Chang and Eng, and More on Kent

Well, I'm back in earnest now. Didn't disclose the fact, but I was supposedly off work the past two weeks over the holidays. I was out of town for several days and sort of out of pocket but tried to keep the posts coming at a steady trickle, and you all have done an amazing job keeping this place alive and kicking the entire time. I want you to know that we are leading this story and, you can bet, the federal investigation itself at times. Don't forget that fact, especially when the practiced naysayers get into the act of trying to stop what we're doing.

I've got a ton of leads to follow, but I want to reiterate a point I made in a comment about Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler attorney Steven Lippman, who was sued by the RRA bankruptcy trustee after allegedly accepting millions of dollars in unearned booty from Scott Rothstein. The lawsuit alleges that Rothstein paid Lippman $436,518 in bonuses in 2008 and 2009. A quick analysis of Lippman's campaign contributions found that he and his wife, Marcy, contributed $423,200 to campaign coffers during the 2008 election cycle and in 2009 ( determined this year's sum, which came to $77,600).

The similarity of the numbers points, of course, to massive campaign fraud. And Lippman wasn't the only one, but also several other RRA lawyers, including Stuart Rosenfeldt and Russell Adler, who made hundreds of thousands of dollars of contributions with their wives.

Again, this is clearly the largest case of campaign fraud Florida has ever seen and certainly ranks high in American history as well. Rothstein was one of the top five fundraisers for John McCain's presidential bid and helped bankroll Charlie Crist's rise to the governorship. He, of course, intended to do the same with Alex Sink, pictured above in a never-before-seen photo. And most of it was done with stolen money. Lippman contributed $500 to Sink back in September, along with a slew of other Rothstein attorneys and associates, including Rosenfeldt and his wife ($1000), Adler and his wife ($1000), Robert Buschel, Kari Rosenfeld ($100), Scott and Kim Rothstein ($1000), David Boden, Irene and Jeff Stay ($1000), Barry Stone, William Berger, Kip Hunter Marketing, Howard Kusnik, Grant Smith, Christina Kitterman, Marc Nurik, Richard Pearson, Howard Gruverman, Carl Linder, Ken Padowitz, eight WAWW companies ($4000), Blandin Wright, AAMM Holdings, Advanced Solutions, ILK 3 LLC. And that's just one quick run-through's worth. (It should be noted that there is no proof that any of these contributors were reimbursed by Rothstein).    

This gives me an excuse to point out one of the more interesting factoids about Sink that was recently passed along from a reader (my many thanks to Yvonne). Remember those Siamese twins from the Guinness Book of World

Records, Chang and Eng? Thanks to that book, the image of those two are seared into my imagination from an early age. Anyway, Sink is Chang's great granddaughter. This isn't exclusive news; it's been reported in National Geographic among other places. But I had missed it and just thought it was so interesting that I had to repeat it here. Somehow having a governor descended from circus freaks (hey, they were circus freaks, and they smartly made a lot of money at it) seems so appropriate

for Florida right now. Based on this information, I am now predicting that Sink will win the governor's mansion (so long as she can speak better than a stump, a can of wheel grease, and her husband, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Holland and Knight attorney Bill McBride).

Speaking of stumps, I want to say a couple more things about Michael Kent, the developer and nightclub owner who sold Rothstein the two Rhode Island homes. First, Frank Iconacasty was right: Kent did cut down all the trees on a pair of lots he owned and paint the stumps in Day-Glo colors. According to a Providence Journal story from 1999, Kent bought wooded lots for a home that the city wouldn't let him build, Angry, "he and friends stood around in good suits and smoked cigars in the apparent belief that cigars still carry some gangster panache," wrote a Providence Journal columnist back in 1999. "And they hooted up a storm as crews with heavy equipment cut down the trees, painted the stumps garish colors, and added small touches such as a stuffed monkey nailed to a tree inside a painted target that seem both vicious and moronic."

It's now the stuff of legend in Rhode Island, and the dispute over the lots ended only last year, when Kent won a $210,000 settlement in a lawsuit he filed against the couple who sold him the land. The couple, oddly, said they didn't know about zoning changes on the land because they had moved to... Morocco (and no, I don't believe there is a connection).

Kent was also a big supporter of the infamous Buddy Cianci, a former Providence mayor who served a five-year prison term after a highly publicized corruption conviction in 2002. Kent even became Cianci's landlord at one time to help the high-living mayor stave off bankrupcty. From a 1992 ProJo story:

The mayor didn't let his financial woes dampen his extravagant lifestyle -- the million-dollar carriage house, the $200,000 yacht, the fine dining, the first-class travel.

As mayor, Cianci's salary was $114,000.

Cianci lived "on the brink," says his longtime political advertising guru, Normand L. Roussel, "because he enjoys the finer things in life."

Bankruptcy was not a viable political option for a mayor who needed to convince voters wary of his fiscal management during Buddy I that he was financially responsible.

City Hall aides, city lawyers and a Providence nightclub operator -- to help pull him through.

A few days before the Dec. 7 fundraiser, Providence nightclub impresario Michael Kent, a political supporter, bought part of Cianci's house, which was legally divided into condominiums, for $200,000. The deal enabled the mayor to avert foreclosure and essentially made him a tenant of Kent's -- Cianci continued to live in the house, and says that he paid rent on Kent's unit. 

And finally, you'll remember that Kent, when he owned Atlantis on Fort Lauderdale beach, waged a prolonged effort to allow the under-21 crowd into the place and threatened to turn the place into a monstrosity called "Uranus" should he not get his way. This is from a ProJo story from September:

City license regulators have cleared the way for Providence's largest nightclub to reopen under new ownership, despite opposition from Brown University and others.

The city Board of Licenses approved a transfer of the liquor license for The Complex, a downtown club with an allowed occupancy of 1,350, to E. Anthony Santurri, owner of a North Providence hair salon who has bar and nightclub management experience.

Santurri has an agreement to obtain the license from its current majority owner, Michael Kent, a real estate developer and longtime owner of Providence nightspots. But the license cannot be transferred without the license board's approval of Santurri as a suitable licensee.

Andrew J. Annaldo, license board chairman, said that Santurri appears to be a good bet as an owner and that the club can be reopened with the existing license regardless of what critics and the license board might prefer.

Kent, who has locked horns with city officials numerous times over the years, had threatened to reopen The Complex himself and to admit patrons younger than the legal drinking age of 21 if the license board stood in the way of the transfer.

Think what you want of Kent, but he's a newspaper's dream.   

Oh, and lastly, it must be noted, thanks to a JAABlog update, that Judge Jay Hurley mitigated the four-month contempt order of Brian Noval and that Noval is now out of jail. I don't think it moots the debate we had here about judicial abuse and arrogance, but it certainly shows that Hurley ended up handling the situation in a reasonable and responsible way. There, I said it.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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